After a dismal doubleheader, Blue Jays fans are in need of some good news. And that comes from down on the farm over the past couple days, with some strong pitching performances turned in. The one common theme unfortunately was defensive miscues and inherited runners undermining those efforts.
Starting in New Hampshire, who had a doubleheader Wednesday. In Game 1, Francisco Rios turned in a solid 5 innings, working his fastball at 93-94 on the stadium gun. He rolled through the first four innings before being made to pay on one big mistake, a three run homer after the inning was extended by an error. That was followed by a pair of singles and a walk, which marred that was otherwise an excellent stat line. In the end, he finished with 7 hits and a walk against 5 strikeouts. Overall, he kept the ball on the ground (59%) and pounded the zone while working ahead. As usual, he didn't miss a ton of bats (81% contact rate).
In the nightcap, it was Jon Harris on the mound. He pitched much better than his so-so final line of 3 runs on 3 hits in 5.1 innings, 2 walks and 4 strikeouts would suggest. Two of those runs scored after he left, having given up a walk and single sandwiched around an out to start the 6th. It was a curiously early hook considering how strong he was to that point and he had only thrown 73 pitches.
The big takeaway was how he dominated contact. 15 batters put balls in play, with 8 weak/routine ground balls (53%, all went for outs) and 4 infield popouts. The only solidly hit balls were back to back line drives in 3rd to score one, and a hard "gliner" single that ended his night. He too was working 93-94 with his fastball. He only missed 6 bats, but when they're making such poor contact, that's no sin.
In Dunedin Wednesday, T.J. Zeuch was very good, much better than the final stat line of 4 runs on 5 hits (1 ER) over 5.2 innings with 3 walks and 2 strikeouts would indicate. For starters, just two of the hits were well struck, with two infield singles and a bloop. He pitched five shutout innings, and then the wheels came off in the 6th, after back to back singles. Cavan Biggio booted a potential double play ball, and then Zeuch walked a batter to force in the first run before an soft infield single and bad throw plated two more. A squeeze scored another, and another walk ended Zeuch's night.
Nonetheless, a lot of positives. Zeuch was sitting around 93, holding that late in the game, with a quality breaking ball. He kept the ball of the ground (56%) and worked ahead of 15 of the 21 batters who didn't put the ball in play on the first pitch. The only thing he didn't do is completely overpower, with 6 swinging strikes on 36 swings (83% contact).
Ryan Borucki came off a brief DL stint last night, and turned in an uneven outing. He needed 75 pitches to go just 4+ innings, but was at least touching 95-96 on his fastball so the stuff was there. He gave up 3 first inning runs on a combination of well placed hits, hard hits, and lack of defensive execution. From there he was pretty solid until allowing back to back ground ball singles to leadoff the 5th inning.
Overall, Borucki kept the ball largely on the ground (56%), though divided into two dominant ground ball stretches to start and end the game with a stretch of mostly air contact in the middle. He generally worked ahead (60%) and missed a handful of bats (8 on 37 swings, 78% contact)
The final strong pitching performance came last night in Lansing by Andy Ravel, last year's 7th round pick. As usual, he wasn't overpowering but worked ahead and in control in an efficient 7 innings (84 pitches). He allowed just 1 run on 4 hits, with a walk against 2 strikeouts. He managed contact very well, especially in the second half of the game.
On the hitting side, Rowdy Tellez broke out his slump a bit, with two hits in 7 PA in a doubleheader, including his first home run since opening day to the opposite field. Max Pentecost and Danny Jansen both continued their hot starts with home runs last night.